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Advice on Academic Tone

“Academic Tone” is a term distinguishing the voice and personality used by college-level academic writers. It's not synonymous with "Formal Tone," since the tone of legislation, diplomacy, and jurisprudence can also be thought of as "formal" without being "academic." Rather, an academic voice is distinguished from the personal voice by its emphasis on factors that befit college-level essays: relative objectivity, precision and conservative usage. All three of these factors are determined by the needs and expectations of an academic audience, which includes professors, academic peers and other colleagues. However, diction of greater sophistication, complex and compound-complex sentence structure, as well as controlled use of rhetorical appeal will identify a quality of voice that runs alongside the quality of content. In upper division and graduate classes, dexterity in the use of academic tone is essential.


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The forbidden words of college writing and academic tone:

English Teacher Snaps

GENERIC NOUN

thing (stuff)

OVERLY FAMILIAR PRONOUN

you

GENERIC VERB

get

GENERICALLY POSITIVE ADJECTIVE

great

CLICHED CONJUNCTIVE ADVERB

hopefully

If you can memorize the sentence, "Hopefully, you get great stuff," you'll have covered all five contraband of academic tone. Here's a "legit" example, though, to get you started:

The great thing about getting a college degree is that, hopefully, it will help you get a great job.

revise as follows:

One hopes that obtaining a college degree will lead to gainful and rewarding employment.

As you will soon see, academic tone is actually a far more complex issue than just these five words. To study and navigate these issues further, use the menu at top right.

Last Updated: 02/10/2015
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  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
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